Learning to Learn – Personal Summary Notes

These are my personal notes taken to help understand the content behind how we as individuals learn new things in life.


Week 1

Our minds can wander between two modes of thinking:

  1. Focused Mode – Pre-frontal cortex; good with familiar contexts
  2. Diffused – representative of our resting state; good with understanding new ideas

Learning something new requires the ability to focus on the task at hand. When the task at hand proves difficult to understand or grasp, we then allow the diffused mode to take place, the resting state so that we may open our minds to a broader way of thinking about the problem.

The problem of procrastination:

  • Procrastination is your mind telling you that the task at hand is painful and wanting you to switch to something more pleasant, temporarily.
  • Use the Pomodoro technique; focus for 45minutes, rest for 15minutes.

Practice and repetition:

  • Working memory contains about 4 “slots” which you can switch between to work on a task.
  • Is key to allowing you to take information from the working memory into the long term memory. Set a time each day or a day each week to repeat or continue learning the topic.

Sleep and exercise:

  • Allows our brain to remove toxins built up during the day
  • Gives our brain the chance to catalogue information collected throughout the day
  • Exercise allows our brain to create new neurons in the hippocampus which aids in memory and learning.

Additional – Creativity and the 2 of the big 5 personality traits (OCEAN)

  • Openness – Is a highly positive trait that allows us to take in new ideas and be more creative
  • Concientiousness – Not significant
  • Extraversion – Not significant
  • Agreeableness – Is a negative trait as to disagree, to not conform means we challenge the status quo, challenge the moderm models.
  • Neurotism – Not significant

Additional – Writing

  • Biggest mistake is to edit (focused) while you’re writing (diffused)

Additional – Learning a language

  • Learn a new language for the right reasons, is it a language you’re excited to learn and why?
  • It’s about making mistakes, allowing yourself to make mistakes and not being scared to make those mistakes!! Language is really good with that because you can still be understood with pieces of a language.
  • Be careful with self fulfilling prophecies!

“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, youre right” – Henry Ford.

  • Rote repetition is not the way to learn a word, try and use mnemonics (word association) to tie words to things you are familiar with or can visualise.

Week 2

Chunking

  • Chunking is the grouping of similar ideas into a single “chunk”. This helps when you recall ideas and topics, instead of the individual ideas that you are recalling, you instead recall the “chunk” and everything that has been embedded into the chunk follows with.
  • Focus attention and find patterns, don’t mistake moments of clarity as learning, this is understanding but won’t stick if you don’t practice.
  • Gain context (top-botton) to see where all the chunks (bottom-up) fit into the bigger picture.

Illusions of learning

  • Having the answers close by or in front of you or easily accessed can give up a false sense of understanding in our minds.
  • Re-learning or overlearning something you already know is comfortable and will give you an illusion that you know the topic well.
  • Recall is much much more effective than re-reading.
  • Simply recalling what you have learned (or any memory in fact) helps you to embed that memory deeper into the long term
  • A way to help you practice recall is testing yourself

Motivation – a neurochemical reaction

  • Acetycholine affects focused learning and attention. They project widely and activate circuits that control synaptic plasticity leading to long term memory.
  • Dopamine signals in relation to unexpected rewards and can predict future rewards
  • Seratonin affects social life and risk taking

Interleaving

  • Once confident with a topic, try to approach the problem from another direction, with a different mindset, try to use the problem in ways different from the normal repetitive sense.

Habits

  • Habits are an incredible tool to move past procrastination
  • There are four parts to forming a habit.
    1. The cue – the signal that begins the routine
      • Usually happens based on location, time, feelings and routine.
    2. The routine – what you automatically do when you see that cue
      • You must notice and actively focus on rewiring your routine. So have a plan of what to do when you see the cue.
    3. The reward – the satisfaction and good feeling you get from doing the routine
      • Provide yourself with a reward which could be anything from food to relaxing etc
    4. The belief – that you can overcome or take on this new habit

Process vs Product

  • Focus on the process and not the end product
  • Process = steps involved
  • Product = the thing which is to be completed

Practical ways of changing habits

  • Brief weekly list of key tasks to achieve
  • Before bed, write down what you can reasonbly work on or complete the next day
  • You can adjust this to your work life. Write a list of tasks that must be achieved by the week then each morning spend some time writing down what will be acheieved that day.
  • It is good to have little tasks within the day that you can check off whether it’s time for cleaning your desk, grabbing some tea or going for a walk, this mixes things up and makes things fun.
  • Additionally, it is important to have a finish time listed each day. A combination of work and play is more effective than long hours of work.
  • And remember – Eat your frogs first everyday! 🙂

Memory

  • Visual memory is powerful. Link topics, formulas and concepts to visual cues whenever you can which will help you remember.
  • Use the memory palace for lists and groups of things
  • It is our Hippocampus in our brains that helps us learn and remember new things
  • The process of Consolidation, Reconsolidation and Reactivation occurs during your sleep.
  • Consolidation – The process wherby the hippocampus helps store memories
  • Reconsolidation – whenever a memory is recalled

Becoming a better learner – Tips

  • Exercise is the No.1 most important thing in helping neurons in the brain survive.
  • Practice makes perfect only when you are prepared.

Visual Metaphor & Analogies

  • Assist glue ideas with existing ideas already present in your mind
  • Try to use yourself as the concept you are trying to understand. I.e the flow of electrons can be imagined by you flowing in the river that is run by a pump.

People learn by trying to make sense of the information they perceive. Rarely do people learn by only being told how things are.

Sneaking off to learn on your own to learn is when you’ll begin to see that what teachers and experts show you is only a partial version of the whole picture. Charles Darwin “snuck” away from his medical degree to join a ship around the world to wander around on his own to see nature first hand. Take responsibility of your own learning.

Deliberate practice of the real tough areas of the subject is key to listing your expertise.

Watch out for Imposter Syndrome when you are trying to learn. It’s when you feel like you are learning the content slower than others or that you’re not good enough to learn it, that others will find this out. Everyone has different gifts, when one door closes, another one opens, keep your chin up and eyes on the open door.

We know something for sure: You can make significant changes in our brain by changing how we think.

Take pride in aiming for success because of the very things that make others say you can’t do it. Take pride in the qualities that make you, you and use them as a secret talisman for success. Use your natural contrariness to defy the always present prejuges from others who will try to undermine your success.

Hard Start – Jump to Easy

In an exam you should start by looking through all the questions and starting with the hardest one. As soon as you get stuck on the tough question, go to do an easier question then go back to the hard question later.

Author: Jason Li

Jason Li (born 17th October 1992) grew up in the big bad city of Sydney. After all these years, he’s still growing up; or at least trying to. Sometimes he writes. Sometimes he gets lucky and writes something good. Most of the time, however, he has no idea where life is taking him, living life just one single day at a time.

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